The role of network cameras in drone detection

The use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, is becoming ever more widespread across multiple industry sectors around the world. PricewaterhouseCoopers research found that the social and economic benefits of drones in the UK by 2030 could add £42 billion to GDP, and create more than 600,000 drone sector jobs.

While most drone users are acting responsibly, and most applications are having a positive impact, there are potential risks associated with drones and some of the counter measures which are permissable have come under increased scrutiny by regulators of late. In the UK, the Government has introduced new legislation to govern the use of drones to ensure their potential is harnessed, while at the same time appropriately addressing the risks. Existing laws have already been toughened up in response to some recent high profile incidents of drones disrupting operations at some international airports. While legislation will help, whether intentional or accidental, it is likely that drones will still find their way into restricted airspace.

The security risk that drones present
Most of us are already aware that drones equipped with a camera can be used as a mobile ‘flying eye’, providing an aerial overview of a given target or location. Drones are a potentially invaluable tool with an enormous array of uses. But this technology does have the potential to be used in more nefarious types of activity, such as corporate espionage or, in a more extreme case, to conduct hostile reconnaissance on a national critical infrastructure site. And of course, innocently – but no less dangerously – drones can present a safety risk when unwittingly flown into airspace where other airborne traffic exists.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report estimates that by 2030 there will be more than 76,000 drones in UK skies. The threat presented by the growth in the usage of drones is real and increasing. From both a safety and security perspective, it’s essential that organisations of all types equip themselves with the technology to mitigate the risks drones pose to their operations, employees and customers.

Network cameras to detect and mitigate the risk of drones 

There has been an exponential increase in the number of vendors in the drone detection and counter-measure market over the past three years and some bold claims have been made. We know that the approach, the technology and the capabilities of the solutions vary hugely. Broadly speaking, the majority of detection systems currently available are either ’active’ solutions in the form of radar or ’passive’ listening solutions, typically using Radio Frequency (RF) detection. The use of radar is often both restricted and expensive. Conversely, Radio Frequency-based solutions suffer less restriction of use and are often less expensive than radar alternatives.

High-performance network cameras also have an important role to play in completing any type of drone detection solution. Cameras capable of performing in extreme variations in light, distance and environmental conditions are a pre-requisite. Crucially, the camera technology must be able to provide a platform for the drone detection technology to integrate into in order to provide irrevocable evidence of a drone. Visual confirmation is something which should be considered a prority when designing any drone detection solution in the future.